In a an effort to find Asia's next crop of golfing stars, six-time major champion Nick Faldo is bringing his highly acclaimed youth development programme - the Faldo Series - to the region. After the successful staging of the inaugural Faldo Series International Trophy in Hong Kong earlier this year; Faldo's aspirations of a series of pan-Asian youth events is one step closer to reality following the relocation of Tom Phillips, director of the Faldo Series in Europe for the past six years, to the SAR. Under Phillips's leadership the Faldo Series, which is supported by the PGA European Tour and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, has grown to become Europe's most prestigious youth tournament with over 1,200 youngsters taking part each year and it is Faldo's hope that an Asian Series will garner the same level of interest. 'Nick has always wanted to expand the series and Asia was seen as the logical next step. There are obviously a tremendous amount of talented young golfers over here and he'd like to see them benefit from the same opportunities that we currently offer their peers in the UK and Europe,' says Phillips. According to Phillips, it was an informal chat on the verandah at the Hong Kong Golf Club back in December, 2003, that started the ball rolling. 'Nick was discussing the European series with the chief executive of the Hong Kong Golf Association Iain Valentine and Fanling's head professional Iain Roberts when they both suggested that it might be a good idea to set up an annual tournament involving the best performers from the Faldo Series in Europe and a select group from Asia. Nick agreed and, with the support of both the HKGA and Howard Palmes at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the inaugural Faldo Series International Trophy was played in January. Now, we want to take it a step further and have the International Trophy as a grand final, with all the players having qualified in regional events first.' Phillips is relying on Faldo's close ties with the Hong Kong Golf Association to help achieve his mission. 'We're doing this very much hand in hand with the association. Iain Valentine is helping me to establish relations with the other golf associations in Asia and we're hoping to hold two or three tournaments by the end of 2005. After that we're looking at increasing that to at least five in 2006 and growing each year after. 'We really want to work closely with all the golf associations and compliment what they're already doing rather than go it alone. The aim is not only to provide experience and education to the region's leading young golfers, but also serve to promote golf to a wider audience of young children,' he says. Launched in 1996, the idea to form the Series came about from Faldo's own experiences as a young professional on the European Tour. 'The transition from being a talented amateur player to making a living on the pro circuit was a lot harder than Nick expected. He received little or no advice on how to prepare for life on Tour, which is the reasoning behind starting the Series, to pass on his 29 years of experiencing golf at the highest level to the next generation. Hopefully, this will help and inspire the players to achieve their ambitions of becoming a champion golfer, amateur or professional,' says Phillips. Despite Faldo's hectic work schedule - as well as competing around the world he also commentates for the ABC network in the US and has a flourishing course design business - the 48-year-old still expects to play a significant part in all aspects of the new series. 'First of all, Nick underwrites it,' says Phillips. 'The Asian Series is part of the Faldo Trust for Tomorrow's Champions [Asia], a charitable company, and Nick will cover any shortfall. He will also host the annual final, which is to be held over three days. He will spend time with the players, watch them in competition, and host question-and-answer sessions and a Master Class along with a gala dinner. The Series lies very close to his heart.' For young Asians who perform well in the final there is also the chance of joining Team Faldo, an exclusive group of talented players who Faldo believes have what it take to become future world-beaters. 'Each year a selection of players join Nick in California for a winter training camp. They spend a week at the Marriott Faldo Institute for intensive training and one-on-one coaching. The facilities are superb and it's an excellent trip for all of them. For seven days they live and breath golf,' says Phillips. One graduate of this year's training camp is 16-year-old Taiwanese phenomenon Ruby Tseng Ya-ni. Tseng, who captured the overall girl's title at the Faldo Series International Trophy earlier this year to earn her invite to California, has since gone on to claim victory at both the Queen Sirikit Cup and the Asia-Pacific Junior Golf Championship. That experience, says Tseng, has helped improve her game. 'It was a great opportunity for me. Nick was really helpful and I'm definitely a much better player as a result.' Other players who have benefited from the Series include 2005 Caltex Masters winner Nick Dougherty - dubbed 'Little Nick - and 22-year-old James Heath, who has been making waves in Britain following star showings on both the Challenge and European Tours in his first few months as a professional. Aside from organising the logistics of the Series, Phillips's other objective is to establish financial support for the charity through sponsorship, thereby laying the foundations for a long-term role in Asia. 'We have a chance to bring something quite unique to the continent and Nick is dedicated to nurturing the next generation of champions,' says Phillips.